Arsenal will look to continue on the success they have built in the last three games, including a win away from home in the first leg against Olympiacos. A cautious and disciplined side saw themselves leave Greece with a 1-0 win giving them a nice cushion for this leg. It certainly isn’t enough for Arsenal to rest on, but having won 3 of the last 4 home meetings against Olympiacos and feeling more comfortable at the Emirates could go a long way. Arsenal will look to reduce their shaky stretches of play from the first leg and control the ball.
Olympiacos has everything to do in this 2nd leg, away from home where they have won 2 of 32 when losing the first leg, and need to get a win first and foremost. They will look to Mathieu Valbuena to help facilitate the attack as he did in the first match. Olympiacos couldn’t find an end product, but Valbuena presented plenty of problems on the left side running against Sokratis who was playing right back for the evening. With 2 shots, 2 created chances, 8 crosses, and 2 key passes Valbuena’s play could be the playmaking Olympiacos rely on.
Arteta will have a decision to make at the right back spot for this game. Bellerin seems to have staked his claim to the #1 spot, as he works back to full fitness, which has seen a reduction in the time Ainsley Maitland-Niles is getting. The questions surrounding Maitland-Niles future were compounded after he was passed up on a couple occasions. Maitland-Niles started off very well under the new reign of Mikel Arteta, which makes his absence potentially more worrying. It is well known that he doesn’t view himself as a defender, preferring to try to break into the midfield, but fans are left wondering if there are conversations happening behind closed doors about his Arsenal future, or what he is willing to do, that is limiting his playing time.
Right back won’t be the only position in question. With a one goal lead, a win away from home, and an away goal – there is an idea that Arteta may look to play with a midfield pairing that offers more defensive support. Lucas Torreira hasn’t been given a lot of time since the first few games under Arteta and could be looking to make an appearance tonight. However, in the last two home games in the Premier League, Arteta as opted to put Dani Ceballos in the midfield pairing with Xhaka to help stimulate more offensive prowess. The result has been two wins and 7 goals, nearly matching Arsenal’s goal scoring tally from all the other matches under Arteta combined. Xhaka seems to have made himself a lock-in and Arteta has spoken to the media about building a team that caters to Ozil as a major creator, which leaves only one spot available for the others.
The attacking front has its own questions. I would imagine we will see Lacazette return to the central striking role after getting the game winning goal in the first leg and then making way for Eddie Nketiah versus Everton. Lacazette wasn’t prolific in the first leg but did manage to be the difference as he tapped home another great Saka cross. If this is true, it would likely leave Aubameyang on the wing and, with Pepe hot, Martinelli could make way having struggled in the opening leg. Martinelli has been great in the Europa League and fans will want him to get his fair share of time but it is beginning to be a little bit crowded with options. Having four days since Everton and not having to play again until Monday versus Portsmouth – a match one would imagine will have more rotation – Arteta will be willing to play his strongest lineup.
No one expects this to be a walk in the park as Olympiacos will want to continue to have European games in their schedule for the year. They seem to have a statistical, stranglehold over the Super Greece League having only conceded 9 goals this year and being 5 points clear which makes this their primary focus. Arsenal will need a good performance, will want a good performance to keep their momentum moving forward, and their clearest path back to Champions League alive.
Lots of tough things to try to predict and Arteta has proved very willing to make some changes with 3 competitions he considers important, but I will give it my best shot.
Leno, Sokratis, Mustafi, Luiz, Saka, Torreira, Xhaka, Ozil, Auba, Laca, Pepe